DETROIT – Representative Rashida Tlaib had returned to Detroit to clean up her law office, a piece of a rickety rerouting church filled with remnants of her past.
She picked up a piece of metal that was formerly part of a fence that a developer placed around a public park, until she and a few neighbors l & # 39; 39 have demolished. She pulled out a sandwich bag containing black pieces of oil that she stole from a dump site, in order to be able to prove that the material was toxic. Then she watched a newspaper article and recalled her memory of being taken in handcuffs after chanting in favor of raising the minimum wage.
"I can not believe that's why I was arrested!" Said Tlaib during his trip to Detroit earlier this year. "I have done so much worse."
Cut down the fences. Steal oil. To get arrested. Three actions that helped shape the activist reputation that Tlaib had built before traveling to Washington, where she had pledged to be a simple-word fighter against President Trump. A few hours after the swearing in of Tlaib, the Congress women's past was eclipsed by three words, recorded on tape, explaining how she wanted to treat the commander-in-chief: "Prevent the Attorney General.
Wednesday, his words became viral again. This time, she congratulated Rep. Mark Meadows (CR) for bringing an administration official and a long-time African American Trump employee to a congressional hearing to say that the president was not racist. "The fact that someone uses an accessory, a black woman in the House, on this committee, is a racist on its own," said Tlaib.
Meadows was angry and an intense back and forth on racism ensued between one of the first Muslim women to sit in Congress and the leader of the conservative group Freedom Caucus. The two men seemed to find common ground a day later in a one-to-one chat that ended in a hug.
Since taking office, Tlaib's remarks have been labeled "inappropriate" by other Democrats and "disrespectful" Republicans. Tlaib refused to apologize. Instead, she chose to become a combative and accursed Congresswoman – partly in the hope of gaining influence.
Residents in his district hope that attention can be helpful. Living in the poorest third district of the country, voters said they had not elected a representative to travel to the nation's capital and make nasty or provocative remarks. They want Tlaib to share their frustration in Washington and create more substantial changes.
Deirdre Woods, 57, a factory worker at General Motors who voted for Tlaib, said she jumped into her car one day as she was returning home. "But that did not leave me with a bitter taste in my mouth, because today nothing surprises me in politics. You know what's more unpleasant? How am I treated to my work. "
After the exchange between Meadows, Woods's feelings began to change.
"Too much talk," she says. "She starts acting like Trump."
Tlaib says that she does more than talk. She is pushing for legislation targeting discriminatory mortgage practices and setting auto insurance rates, but she knows that one of her plans through a Republican-controlled Senate is at best a long one. plan. This leaves it to try to meet the needs of its constituents in other ways, such as transforming its four district offices into neighborhood resource centers, where families and struggling residents can get access to the community. 39; aid. And by making himself heard.
"I'm part of a new generation of congressmen," said Tlaib while packing. "We will hear things differently and my constituents will be much more connected with me. The best thing I can do is talk and fight for my district. "
Michigan's 13th congressional district, which includes West Detroit and Wayne County in the suburbs, has long been associated with Frankish representatives. Tlaib, who served three terms in the state assembly, succeeded John Conyers Jr., a human rights representative who resigned on charges of sexual harassment.
Tlaib had to convince voters that she, a Palestinian American woman in a district with only 5 percent Arabs, should replace a well-known black leader in an African-American district at 54 percent.
Woods voted for Tlaib, she said, because she saw advantages in having a Muslim and a woman in power. Although she was not enthusiastic about Tlaib's comments on Wednesday, she did not know if a conversation about Meadows' actions would have taken place if the committee did not have women of color to express their discomfort.
"The Congress must look more like a melting pot," said Woods. "They might do it better if they had a different perspective. Maybe they would make better decisions. "
Woods wondered, however, why more politicians were not talking more about what was happening at the GM plant. The factory where she worked had been closed, affecting more than 1,500 workers.
After 21 years with GM, Woods was angry that no one in the company informed the workers about these closures. she discovered while watching the news. Then she said that she had been told to be grateful to have been transferred to another factory 50 km away, doubling her journey and costing her more money in gasoline.
Its former factory was one of five plant closures that GM announced it was considering, which could cost more than 15,000 jobs. While she watched politicians answer the news, she noticed a difference between the president she hated and the congresswoman she was supporting.
Trump sent two tweets, which she appreciated, but then he seemed to move on.
But last month, Tlaib joined 300 protesters outside the Detroit auto show. She wore a thick black coat and a winter hat and walked with her while golf carts carried men in tuxedos and women in ball gowns for an auction. She joined the protesters chanting: "GM has been saved! We are complete! She grabbed the megaphone.
"Let's sing so they can hear us," Tlaib shouted. "Beyond champagne, beyond prom dresses, beyond tuxedos, they need to hear that people are suffering!"
Despite all the notoriety that she was getting in Washington, her presence on a local problem meant a lot more.
"It was great," Woods said. "It showed that she was really in the corner for me. "
Tlaib hopes her willingness to fight will help her strengthen her support at home, where her congressional seat is precarious. She had no opposition to major parties in general elections, but had won the primary democratic majority with one percentage point, or 900 votes.
In the primary, she lost her neighborhood within the city limits but took advance by campaigning in the western working-class suburbs – union towns where factory workers live in ranch homes and where some disillusioned Democrats toppled in 2016 from Senator Bernie Sanders (Vt.) in the Democratic primary to Trump in the general election. Over time, she wants the Detroit voters to see what her supporters in the suburbs have seen.
For Michal Walker, a 75-year-old social worker who met Tlaib for the first time at the Romulus Democratic Club, what she admired most was the authenticity of Tlaib.
She told everyone to call her "Rashida". She gave her mobile phone number. She laughed, telling stories about her two sons, choking on Flint's water crisis, and talking passionately about policy that was too much for the rich.
Tlaib was Walker's immediate choice. Walker did not care about his race or religion. She did not fear that Tlaib was a democratic socialist.
"I saw that she was very serious," Walker said.
Walker was proud to be represented by a legend like Conyers. But Conyers was in the twilight of his life. Now, she wanted her successor to be younger, more proactive. Walker was not surprised when voters from across the country made similar decisions, for example, when a predominantly white community in Minnesota chose representative Ilhan Omar (D), another Muslim activist, or when the representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D), a 29-year-old bartender, won in New York.
"There are basically two types of politicians in this country," said Don Mongrain, 35, a member of the Romulus Democratic Club. "There is one who can have a relationship with a man who has to sell blood to pay for groceries, and another who can ask their father a loan of a million dollars to go to a private school. "
Mongrain was a man who sold his plasma for groceries. He has entered data for an insurance company and is currently working on his bachelor's degree, where he lives from paycheck to student loan check.
He felt that Tlaib could understand his struggles. Aged 42, she was a single mother living in southwestern Detroit. She was facing problems such as what to do after burglars stole her furnace. She had a working-class sensibility because she was a worker. And in Detroit, he says, the working class meant that she was cursed.
"It's just who is Rashida," Mongrain said. "What's the problem?"
The big potential problem was that Tlaib is now defined by the moment. Democrats complained that she was jumping to conclusions about the president before the conclusion of the special council's investigation. The conservative media has treated it as ridiculous by calling it "an Islamic woman at the rude congress" and a Florida lawmaker has suggested that she might bomb the Capitol. Her words led to an even more scrutiny, including when her opponents seized her position to divest from Israel and hinted that she was anti-Semitic.
"Could not she just be like Michelle Obama?" Asked Terrill Sewantek, 65, whose son lives on the street next to Mongrain. Chris Sewantek, 35, told him that Tlaib belonged to a different generation who could not simply "get on top" if she felt that the president had fallen too low.
"She reacts to the way Trump is acting, to show that he can not intimidate him," he said. "I do not necessarily swear like that, but he uses colorful language. It is nice to have someone who checks it. I think that when we see it going away, the hardness that is opposed to it will also disappear. "
Tlaib does not want his hardness to go away.
"My constituents do not want me to sell," she said while having lunch in front of her old office. She thought that disturbing people was inevitable, since she was one of the first Muslim Congress women and a democratic socialist.
"My mere presence as a Muslim, Palestinian mother – to curse or not to curse – is a threat," she said. "That alone upset Congress. And I'm not silent and I do not hide.
At the time of his election, Tlaib witnessed another way of fighting against the White House. In spite of all the speeches of the new generation of Congress, it is the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) – over 30 years old – who has earned praise for the way she has treated President Trump during the partial closure of the government.
During the confrontation, Tlaib said he saw someone deal with the president with "grace," "calm," and "strategy." Tlaib was not sure he could do the same thing.
"The people who elected me did not want me to be a politician," she said. "They want me to be real. They know that I was believed. And now, I feel angry. "
This anger earned him more than 380,000 followers on Twitter and reservations on cable news networks. She learned how to handle ambush interviews on tabloid television and ignore death threats, unless "the threat is imminent". She entrusts the interviews to a director of communication who, according to her, helps her "catch up" before thinking that she is going too far. And she swears less in public.
"I would say that using the word MF has become a distraction, a huge distraction from everything I wanted to talk about," she said while finishing her lunch. "I did not expect it."
Already, Washington was changing the woman who did not want to sell herself. While she was returning to the old church, she was stopped by a man with gray dreadlocks who smiled widely when he saw the congressman.
"Rashida, you're doing a great job!", He tells him. "Now, stay out of TMZ."